Post-viral fatigue occurs whenever you feel tired (or fatigued) and unwell for an extended period even after a viral infection. Typically, fatigue is a normal response of the human body to fighting a viral infection, like the flu, COVID-19, etc. It may also stay for a while even after treating the infection.
During post-viral fatigue, you are likely to feel sleepy for a longer time, feel difficult to stand for a long period, and also feel unsteady on your feet. Sometimes it may even affect your memory and concentration. But what if it extends for a longer period even after the infection is cleared?
In this article, we’ll show you ways to cope with this condition but before that understand its cause, symptoms, and treatment.
What is Post-Viral Fatigue?
Post-viral fatigue is a complex syndrome that may lead to cognitive, physical, neurological, emotional, role performance, or vocational disabilities.
All these disabilities may often change with time or occur in various types of severities. This condition is also called post-infectious fatigue syndrome (PIFS), chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), Iceland disease, systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID), and Royal Free disease.
The treatment often depends on the duration and severity of the syndrome. One vital difference between CFS and post-viral fatigue syndrome is that CFS occurs due to any unknown condition, whereas post-viral fatigue happens due to acute or chronic viral.
How long does the post-viral fatigue condition last?
Researchers are still finding out the real causes and outlook of this particular condition. Generally, people with this syndrome may experience various types of triggers and symptoms.
Nonetheless, one of the major criteria for diagnosing this condition is profound fatigue for several months. While the exact duration of this fatigue may vary, it can be life-long in some cases.
The causes of post-infectious fatigue syndrome are not clearly understood, as mentioned above. However, various types of infections may cause this condition.
Some of these infections are:
- Epstein-Barr virus
- Human herpesvirus 6
- Ross River virus
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Giardia lamblia parasite
- West Nile virus
- Varicella-zoster virus (it causes chicken pox)
- SARS-CoV-2 virus (it leads to COVID-19)
The major symptom of this particular condition is fatigue triggered by any physical activity or post-exertional malaise (PEM). Due to this, many people may feel the sensation of crashing mental or physical energy.
Just because of the severity of this condition, people may find it hard to carry on with everyday tasks and activities.
Nonetheless, this condition causes the following symptoms:
- Memory issues
- Brain fog or confusion
- Chest pain
- Rapid heartbeat
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Sore throat
- Tender lymph nodes
- Sleep abnormalities or insomnia
- Joint and muscle pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling exhausted even after sleeping or non-restorative sleep
- Extreme thirst
- Muscle weakness
- Difficulty while regulating the body temperature
- Sensitivity to sound, light, or chemicals
Besides that, it also leads to several other gastrointestinal symptoms, like:
Besides all the symptoms mentioned above, several people are likely to continue to feel the symptoms related to the initial infection, such as difficulty breathing or coughing, even after curing the infection.
There could be some other trigger points that may make the given symptoms more pronounced. Hence, the symptoms become more sporadic or chronic.
Since this condition is not fully understood by scientists, there is no particular cure for it. Instead, the treatment of this condition concentrates on the management of symptoms.
You need to find the right treatment or combination of treatments for taking some trial and error. Furthermore, you need to keep the line of communication open with your healthcare team to make sure you get the best possible medical care.
Many types of medications can easily manage the condition. Some of these medications are clonazepam, trazodone, and low-dose tricyclic antidepressants for pain management and treating insomnia.
Besides that, there are certain options for non-pharmacological treatment, like exercises, medication, etc.
Coping with post-viral fatigue
Want to cope with post-infectious fatigue syndrome? Despite your activity levels or age before this infection, whenever your body resists what it was able to do before or if it’s not working normally after illness, it may take a serious toll on your physical and mental health. According to certain studies, there’s also an association between severe depression and chronic fatigue.
Coping with depression caused by post-infectious fatigue syndrome may mean taking measures for enhancing mindfulness. It means that you need to strengthen your ability for coping with unpleasant feelings and sensations, as well as perpetual exhaustion. With that, you can decrease the negative emotional suffering and adverse reactivity.
Some ways to practice mindfulness and cope with post-viral fatigue are:
- Mindfulness-based therapy
- Group or interpersonal therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy
During these activities, individuals will identify their limits and won’t push themselves too hard to prevent the worsening of any such symptoms. You can look for the right support groups and communities to help you cope with the condition and get back to your normal life.
Post-viral fatigue syndrome occurs whenever someone experiences tiredness and other flu-like signs even after curing a viral infection. If serious, some symptoms may even lead to depression. Although temporary, this post-viral syndrome has no specific recovery timeline.
However, you can learn to cope with this condition thanks to certain mindfulness practices, like yoga, meditation, or other formal coping strategies, such as talking with a professional mental healthcare provider. Hence, you can fight off these depression signs with ease. With strong network support, you can easily recover from this condition.